Mali’s Latest Elections: A Sign of the Peace to Come?

Once known as the pillar of democracy and peace in West Africa, Mali is facing its worst humanitarian crisis since 1960 with an estimated 2 million Malians at risk of food security, 400,000 people displaced and hundreds more subjected to arbitrary detention, extra- judicial executions, sexual violence, torture and other inhumane treatment.

Taking advantage of the political upheaval and the chaos created by the coup led by General Amadou Sanogo against the then President Amadou Toumani Toure in March 2012, the MNLA and the Islamist armed groups swiftly occupied the entire north of the country and have continued to hold it for the last nine months. Hundreds of detainees are being tortured, ill-treated or subjected to inhumane treatment for having alleged links with rival military groups with 70 Malian soldiers were allegedly summary executed in the town of Alguelhoc in the month of January.

Sexual abuse including gang rape, summary executions, looting and pillages of hospitals, schools, aid agencies and government buildings to name a few are prime examples of  the ways in which Mali is disrespecting the rule of law and democracy.  Islamist extremists have enforced their interpretation of sharia law on the Malian citizens with beatings, floggings, stoning and amputation for those that are seen as deviating from it.

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Women are forced to adhere to the dress code and are forbidden to smoke or sell cigarettes.  MNLA and Islamist groups have recruited, trained and used several hundred children, some as young as the age of eleven. Those that have sought refuge in the makeshift camps lack basic necessities such as food, housing, electricity and water distribution, thus adding to the increase of malnutrition along with malaria, and other transmitted diseases in the camp.

With the broiling human right situation, Mali’s African and international partners struggled to come up with a solution. The African Union, ECOWAS and EU countries provided initial military and logistical support with the adoption of Resolution 2100 on 25 April 2013 establishing the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The main focus of the mission is on the protection of civilians, human rights monitoring, the creation of conditions for the provision of humanitarian assistance and the return of the displaced persons.  On July 13 2013, the AU further deployed an Election Observing Mission to Mali.

European Union observers and MINUSMA praised the West African nation’s legislative elections on Sunday, 24 November 2013 despite the low turnout and some voting abuses. A second round will be held on December 15 in constituencies where there is no majority winner. France aims to reduce its military presence to 1000 by February 2014 an MINUSMA is only using half of its 12,600 planned strength. Is this small election victory combined with the decrease in the military strength a sign of peace to come or is the humanitarian going to worsen? Only time will tell.

ACDHRS Receives ICPS Award

African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies receives ICPS Award

mf with award

The International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS) based in the United Kingdom, on 4th December, 2013 awarded the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) with the ICPS Award 2013. The Award was received on behalf of the ACDHRS by its Executive Director, Mrs Hannah Forster amidst a deafening applause from the distinguished participants and delegates in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.

The Award by the ICPS is in recognition of the ACDHRS’s contribution towards global initiatives that seek to guarantee free, fair and efficient elections whereby citizens can have a genuine involvement in how they are governed. This Award publicly celebrates the success of individuals and organisations that have made outstanding contributions in electoral affairs. In total, there were eleven award categories with three finalists per category and one award. The International Electoral Awards Committee consists of nine high level electoral experts, public figures and political representatives. The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights followed second immediately after the ACDHRS.

ACDHRS is humbly honoured by this Award in recognition of its continuous efforts at both the regional and national levels. To be honoured so profoundly gives all the hard working staff of ACDHRS the deepest pleasure. ACDHRS believes in democratic legitimacy of government of any country is a crucial pre-requisite for peace and stability and that elections are the cornerstone of democracy. It will continue to advocate for free and fair electoral processes in established democracies as well as in countries still in process of democratisation.

The ACDHRS wishes to thank each and every one of its partners, both in Africa and beyond, funders, Board Members and all Staff for their support and collaboration over the years towards the promotion and protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Africa, particularly as it celebrates its 25th Anniversary in 2014.

ICPS Award